skip to main content
I'm working on a new version of RPGBOT.net. Find out more on the new blog and read this page on the new site.
RPGOT Logo RPGBOT

DnD 5e - The Rogue Handbook

Last Updated: March 29th, 2021

Disclaimer

RPGBOT uses the color coding scheme which has become common among Pathfinder build handbooks, which is simple to understand and easy to read at a glance.

  • Red: Bad, useless options, or options which are extremely situational.
  • Orange: OK options, or useful options that only apply in rare circumstances.
  • Green: Good options.
  • Blue: Fantastic options, often essential to the function of your character.

I will not include 3rd-party content, including content from DMs Guild, even if it is my own, because I can't assume that your game will allow 3rd-party content or homebrew. I also won't cover Unearthed Arcana content because it's not finalized, and I can't guarantee that it will be available to you in your games.

The advice offered below is based on the current State of the Character Optimization Meta as of when the article was last updated. Keep in mind that the state of the meta periodically changes as new source materials are released and this article will be updating accordingly as time allows.

RPGBOT is unofficial Fan Content permitted under the Fan Content Policy. Not approved/endorsed by Wizards. Portions of the materials used are property of Wizards of the Coast. ©Wizards of the Coast LLC.

Introduction

Rogues are the quintessential Face, Scout and Striker. Sneak Attack allows them to do a huge pile of damage in a single attack, and their pile of skills allows them to easily handle locks, traps, guards, and many other challenges. While a party can function just fine without a Rogue, it's hard to compete with the sheer number of important skill and tool proficiencies offered by the Rogue.

Rogues typically split into melee or ranged builds, though the universal efficacy of Dexterity makes it easy for many rogues to switch between the two. Melee Rogues frequently go for two-weapon fighting because it provides a second chance to score Sneak Attack, and hit-and-run tactics enabled by Cunning Action are great way to get into melee to attack before retreating behind your party. Ranged rogues typically rely on sniping, which is also enabled by Cunning Action due to the ability to hide as a Bonus Action. Hiding after each attack using Cunning Action is reliable and effective, though it can be very static and repetitive. Rogue subclasses expand upon those tactical options, but in many cases these staple tactics remain crucial to the class's function.

After reading this handbook, I encourage you to read my Rogue Subclasses Breakdown and my Rogue Spells Breakdown if you plan to play an Arcane Trickster.

Rogue Class Features

Optional Class Features are detailed below under Optional Class Features.

Hit Points: 1d8 hit points is dangerous if you go into melee alone, so be sure to have a nice tanky ally nearby and a healer waiting in the wings.

Saves: Dexterity saves will protect you from things like fireballs, and Intelligence saves also exist I suppose. Evasion further improves your Dexterity saves.

Proficiencies: Rogues get all of the weapons they need to get by, but thieves' tools, and a fantastic four skills.

Expertise: Rogues are truly the master of skills. Pick skills which fit the theme and style of your campaign and your character well.

Sneak Attack: Sneak Attack is the source of most of the Rogue's damage, and should define your combat tactics. You can only use it once per turn, which is disappointing for two-weapon fighting builds, but once per turn is plenty. Also note that it's per turn, not per round, so you can potentially use your reaction to Sneak Attack a second time in a round.

Thieves' Cant: Really only matters for flavor.

Cunning Action: This is a fantastic option for bringing your Sneak Attack into play. Archers can use Hide to stay hidden between attacks, and melee Rogues can use Dash and Disengage to move around the battlefield safely and quickly.

Roguish Archetype: Rogue subclasses are briefly summarized below. See my Rogue Subclasses Breakdown for help selecting your subclass.

  • Arcane Trickster: Use illusions and enchantments to confuse and outsmart your foes.
  • Assassin: Masters of infiltration, disguise, and dealing high-damage sneak attacks at the beginning of combat.
  • Inquisitive: Masters of Insight and Investigation, the Inquisitive is hard to surprise or fool, and they can use their keen insight to allow them to Sneak Attack foes more easily than most rogues.
  • Phantom: Speak to the spirits of the dead and use their knowledge to empower your attacks and your skills.
  • Mastermind: Masters of planning and tactics, the Mastermind can use the Help action to great effect in combat, and can gain insights about other creatures outside of combat by studying them at length.
  • Scout: Adept skirmishers and ambushers, scouts are fast and difficult to pin down in combat, and move about quickly on the battlefield.
  • Soul Knife: Use psionic power to create deadly psychic blades in combat.
  • Swashbuckler: Charismatic master duelists, swashbucklers use their Charisma in unique ways both in and out of combat, and are masters at engaging foes one-on-one.
  • Thief: The iconic rogue, the Thief is a master of using tools and items (including magic items) to overcome challenges quickly.

Uncanny Dodge: If you only draw a handful of attacks this can prevent a huge amount of damage.

Evasion: Between this and uncanny dodge you are very durable.

Reliable Talent: This is especially nice for your Expertise skills, and it's great motivation to pick up the Skilled feat.

Blindsense: Locating invisible creatures can be very hard, and even if you can't hit them easily it goes a long way to know where they are standing.

Slippery Mind: Your Wisdom probably isn 't great, but at this level your Proficiency Bonus is big enough that this goes a long way.

Elusive: Between this, Uncanny Dodge, and Evasion you are very difficult to kill.

Stroke of Luck: Essential when the chips are down and you can't afford to fail.

Optional Class Features

Introduced in Tasha's Cauldron of Everyting, Optional Class Features offer ways to add additional features or replace existing ones. These rules are optional, and you should not assume that your DM will allow these features without consulting them first.

Assessments and suggestions for specific Optional Class Features are presented here, but for more information on handling Optional Class Features in general, see my Practical Guide to Optional Class Features.

Steady Aim (Addition): Nowhere to hide? Nowhere to run? No shenanigans to get easy access to Sneak Attack? Steady Aim is your answer. It's not especially exciting, but it's incredibly effective, and provides a way for rogues to achieve Sneak Attack in situations where they might otherwise struggle to do so.

I recommend allowing Steady Aim on all single-class rogues who take subclasses that I rate orange or red, but you might also allow it for new players who are acclimating to 5e's rules, especially if they struggle to keep track of the conditions which allow them to deliver sneak attacks. Delivering Sneak Attack is 5th edition is really easy in most situations, and having situations where the rogue can't manage sneak attack is part of what balances the Rogue's consistently high damage output. For a new player (or players who struggle with game mechanics) this can be a helpful crutch, but for experienced players who are comfortable with the rules, this is basically an on-switch for easy mode.

You do give up the ability to move under your own power for the turn in which you use Steady Aim, but that conveniently doesn't apply to mounts or to a broom of flying, so abuse cases are both abundant and easy to access. If you're asking yourself if you or someone in your game is experienced enough with the game that you don't need Steady Aim, I recommend this as a barometer: If the player in question knows the game well enough to think of a horse as an abuse case, that player probably doesn't need Steady Aim.

Ability Scores

Dexterity is key for any Rogue, and Intelligence is important for Arcane Tricksters, but your Wisdom and Charisma depend largely on your choice of skills and role in the party.

Str: Typically your dump stat. Nothing that a typical Rogue does uses Strength. However, you're not forced to use Dexterity to make Sneak Attacks so long as you use a suitable weapon, so Strength-based rogues are technically possible. It's usually a bad idea, but it is absolutely possible.

Dex: Rogues run on Dexterity. They add to you skills, your tools, your attacks, your damage, your AC, and your best save.

Con: Hit points are always important, especially for melee Rogues.

Int: Arcane Tricksters need Intelligence for their spells, but other Rogues only need it for Investigation.

Wis: Helpful for Insight and Perception, but otherwise useless. Inquisitives will want a bit more to power Unerring Eye, but Expertise will outweight your ability modifier anyway so you don't need much.

Cha: Rogues make a great Face, and you can't be a Face without Charisma.

Most Rogues Arcane Trickster
Point Buy Standard Array Point Buy Standard Array
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 11
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 10
  • Wis: 13
  • Cha: 12
  • Str: 10
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 14
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 10
  • Cha: 10
  • Str: 8
  • Dex: 15
  • Con: 13
  • Int: 14
  • Wis: 12
  • Cha: 10

Races

Dexterity bonuses are critical, and Darkvision is fantastic for sneaking around in the dark. Size doesn't matter since Rogues don't use heavy weapons. That sets a very low bar for races that work for the Rogue, so there's a lot of room to look for other benefits. Access to better weapons like heavy crossbows, racial traits like flight, innate spellcasting, and damage resistances can all be excellent assets and with such simple requirements you have lots of room to explore racial traits which go beyond ability score increases.

Note that setting-specific races like the Changeling and the Satyr are addressed in setting-specific sections, below.

AarakocraEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and flight in light armor. For a ranged rogue, that's amazing. Keep in mind that the Aarakocra can't hover, so if you use the Steady Aim Optional Class Feature you'll need to land or you'll fall out of the air.

Default Rules: Fantastic for an archer Rogue. Flying makes getting places much easier, especially where things like walls are an issue, and it keeps you out of range of enemies. Bonus Dexterity is also nice.

AasimarVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two damage resistances, and Darkvision. Transformation is still the big reason to play the Aasimar. Much like Sneak Attack, Transformation's damage bonus is wasted if you don't hit, so consider two-weapon fighting so that you have an additional chance to hit with an attack.

  • Fallen: The range is short so this is only viable in melee, and the DC of the fear effect is Charisma-based so it will only be reliable if you're building to be a Face.
  • Protector: Flight when you need it. Ideal for ranged builds.
  • Scourge: Rogues don't have the hit points to back this up.

Default Rules: Two damage resistances, Darkvision, and some innate spellcasting are neat, but without a Dexterity increase or skills or anything of the sort the Aasimar is really difficult choice for the Rogue.

  • Fallen: Bad ability spread.
  • Protector: Bad ability spread.
  • Scourge: Bad ability spread.

Aasimar (DMG Variant)DMG

Customized Origin: The innate spellcasting is neat, but not especially useful for the Rogue. The Protector Aasimar is a better fit.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

BugbearVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Long-limbed is great for staying out of reach, allowing you to use Cunning Action to Dash and get yourself far away from your target before your turn ends. Surprise Attack synergizes very well with Sneak Attack. A bugbear assassin is terrifyingly deadly in the first round of combat, provided that they roll well on initiative.

Default Rules: The Strength increase is totally wasted on a rogue, but reach is hard for rogues to get, you get Stealth proficiency for free, and Surprise Attack stacks with Sneak Attack so you can deal 3d6+weapon damage at first level and one-shot many enemies. The bonus damage is also multiplied on a critical hit, so the Assassin's Assassinate feature offers an easy way to further capitalize on the bonus damage.

Custom LineageTCoE

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Custom Lineage.

Default Rules: +2 increase, Darkvision, and a feat. Rogues only strictly need Dexterity, and Darkvision is a huge asset for sneaking around unnoticed, so the Custom Lineage is typically a better choice than the Variant Human. If you pick a feat which also offers a Dexterity increase, starting at 18 Dexterity is really nice.

DragonbornPHB

The Draconblood and Ravenite subraces are addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increase and damage resistance. The Dragonborn's signature trait is their breath weapon, and while the ability to damage multiple foes is tempting it will almost always be less total damage than hitting with Sneak Attack.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

DwarfPHB

Customized Origin: One +2 increase and a second increase from your subrace, poison resistance, plus a bunch of proficiencies which you'll trade for tool proficiencies and possibly for proficiency in heavy crossbows.

  • DuergarSCAG: Invisibility as an innate spell is nice, but that's the only big appeal here. Sunlight Sensitivitiy is a pain, and Enlarge/Reduce isn't especially useful for the Rogue.
  • HillPHB: Bonus hit points are always nice.
  • MountainPHB: The Rogue is very SAD for a martial class, so the Mountain Dwarf's two +2 increases aren't a huge benefit. Medium armor is neat if you want to build around Strength for some reason, but there's basically no reason to do so. Most likely you'll put your increases into Dexterity and Constitution to make room for more feats later in your build.

Default Rules: The Dwarf's traits are tangentially helpful for the Rogue, but they have trouble competing with races which provide a Dexterity bonus. Darkvision is particularly helpful, and a Constitution increase is always welcome, but since so much of the Rogue's capabilities rely on Dexterity it's still a challenging way to build a character.

  • DuergarSCAG: Invisibility is a great option for any rogue, but that's not enough, especially since numerous other races can do the same and have ability increases which work better for the rogue.
  • HillPHB: Extra hit points are nice, and a bit of Wisdom helps with Perception, but without a Dexterity increase you'll lag on core rogue competencies like Stealth.
  • MountainPHB: Strength and medium armor are both useless for most rogues, but the combination makes a Strength-based build possible. You only need the 14 Dexterity to max out medium armor, and you can be just as effective in combat as a Dexterity-based rogue. You'll lag on normal rogue capabilities like Stealth, but a rogue isn't required to be sneaky if you don't want to be. High Strength also means that you can be good at things like Athletics which most rogues are bad at. If you want to explore a Strength-based build but don't want to be a dwarf, you'll likely need to multiclass.

ElfPHB

The Palid Elf subrace is addressed under Races of Wildemount, below.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), Darkvision, one skill (which you should leave as Perception). Most elf subraces offer some weapon proficiencies, most of which are martial weapons which you have little reason to use. Instead, trade some of those proficiencies to get proficiency in whips (reach) and heavy crossbows (1d10 damage compared to the Hand Crossbow's 1d6) and you'll have some cool options not available to other rogues.

  • DrowPHB: Decent in a subterranean campaign, but nothing good enough to offset Sunlight Sensitivity.
  • EladrinMToF: The teleportation is great, and the Charisma-based rider effect works great if you're built to be a Face.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: Trade the standard Eladrin's rider effect for four weapon proficiencies which you can trade for better ones and/or tools. If you want the Eladrin's teleportation but you're not building a Face, the Variant Eladrin is a great choice.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade is just too good and too easy on the Rogue. It works on any melee rogue, and it's so effective that there's little reason to explore other options.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: The Shadar-Kai's teleportation is good, but at only once per long rest it's not as impactful as either version of the Eladrin. The damage resistance is nice, but necrotic damage is rare.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Mask of the Wild is a nice when you're in forests, but otherwise the Wood Elf's traits aren't appealing.

Default Rules: A bonus to Dexterity, Darkvision, and Perception proficiency are perfect for the Rogue.

  • DrowPHB: Improved Darkvision range is helpful for ambushing enemies which also have Darkvision, but Sunlight Sensitivity is really impractical outside of subterranean campaigns. If you're here for the innate spellcasting, consider the Drow Half-Elf instead.
  • EladrinMToF: Roughly on par with the High Elf, Fey Step is a massive benefit for a class so dependent on stealth and surprise, and occasionally dependent on running when a fight turns sour. While the High Elf is better offensively for melee builds, the Eladrin is great for ranged builds, and the Charisma-based rider effects are especially effective you're playing the party's Face.
  • Eladrin (Variant)DMG: An Intelligence increase increase is great of arcane tricksters, and if you don't have much Charisma it's easy to give up the standard Eladrin's teleportation rider effect. Proficiency with longbows is the only weapon proficiency which you'll benefit from, but it's only slightly more damage than a hand crossbow or a shortbow, so it's not huge. You're mostly here for the Intelligence increase.
  • High ElfPHB: Booming Blade on a melee rogue is just ridiculously effective. Combined with Cunning Action you have an easy way to dart in, hit with Booming Blade (and ideally deliver Sneak Attack) and move away safely while punishing enemies for chasing you. The Swashbuckler archetype is especially good at abusing this combination because they can deliver Sneak Attack in melee easily without requiring allies to also be in melee with the target.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Shadar-KaiMToF: The Shadar-Kai's teleportation is good, but at only once per long rest it's not as impactful as either version of the Eladrin. The damage resistance is nice, but necrotic damage is rare.
  • Wood ElfPHB: Wisdom is nice for Perception, and Mask of the Wild is a nice when you're in forests, but otherwise the Wood Elf's traits aren't especially impactful.

FirbolgVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and some spellcasting that's mostly situational. Hidden Step is great for rogues, but the duration is short so you may be better served by races which can cast Invisibility.

Default Rules: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

GenasiEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +1), but the vast majority of the Genasi's traits come from the subraces.

  • Air: Play a race that can fly.
  • Earth: Pass Without Trace is really tempting, but if you're worried about Stealth you should get Expertise in Stealth.
  • Fire: Sneak Attack will always outpace the spells.
  • Water: Only in an aquatic campaign.

Default Rules: A Constitution bonus never hurts, but Rogues who take a lot of damage don't live very long no matter how many hit points they have.

  • Air: The Dexterity bonus isn't enough to make up for the Air Genasi's lack of other useful traits. If you want to get off the ground, play an Aarakocra.
  • Earth: Nothing useful for the Rogue.
  • Fire: Sneak Attack will always outpace the spells.
  • Water: Nothing useful for the Rogue.

GithMToF

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), but the bulk of your notable racial traits come from your subrace.

  • Githyanki: Trade the proficiencies for whips, heavy crossbows, and three tools. The innate spellcasting is neat, but you're mostly here for Misty Step. Compare the Githyanki to the Variant Eladrin: The Variant Eladrin gets to use Misty Step on a Short Rest, and the Githyank gets to cast Mage Hand and Jump and gets one more tool proficiency. It's not a great trade.
  • Githzerai: Resistance to common charm and fear conditions, and interesting innate spellcasting. Keep in mind that you need a free hand to cast Shield, so two-weapon fighting is risky unless you're throwing one of the weapons.

Default Rules: The Intelligence increase looks tempting for an Arcane Trickster, but that is not nearly enough.

  • Githyanki: Bad ability spread.
  • Githzerai: Bad ability spread.

GnomePHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases (each subrace offers a +1 increase), Darkvision, and Gnome Cunning.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: You're not saddled with Sunlight Sensitivity, but the Svirfneblin still doesn't offer enough that it's useful outside of a subterranean campaign.
  • ForestPHB: Minor Illusion is great. It's easy to compare the Forest Gnome to the High Elf: you give up the ability to pick your cantrip and a skill in exchange for Gnome Cunning.
  • RockPHB: Tinker is not useful enough to make this appealing.

Default Rules: Intelligence and Darkvision work for an Arcane Trickster, but other Rogues won't get as much benefit from Intelligence.

  • Deep (Svirfneblin)EEPC / SCAG: Fantastic in a subterranean game, but otherwise unremarkable.
  • ForestPHB: Dexterity is great for a Rogue, and combined with the base Gnome's Intelligence bonus this is a fantastic choice for an Arcane Trickster.
  • RockPHB: The Constitution buff is the only thing with any significant game effect.

GoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and Darkvision. Nimble Escape is redundant, so Fury of the Small is the Goblin's signature trait. It's fine, but it won't really change your tactics.

Default Rules: The ability scores are fantastic, but Nimble Escape is totally redundant with Cunning Action.

GoliathEEPC

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and damage resistance. Stone's Endurance is redundant with Uncanny Dodge.

Default Rules: Goliaths are Strength-based melee monsters, which really don't work for the Rogue.

Half-ElfPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1/+1 increases, Darkvision, and Fey Ancestry. Rogues don't really need three increases, but they certainly don't hurt.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based so if you're built to be a Face it can work reasonably well. Faerie Fire is especially appealing because it provides an easy way to deliver Sneak Attack in situations where it might otherwise be difficult.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Booming Blade is still amazing. You give up the Elf's skill proficiency for a third ability score increase, but the Rogue already gets four skills so that may be fine for you.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Rogues get a lot of skills, but not nearly enough to cover everything that a Rogue may want to do, especially if you're the party's Face.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Nothing even remotely comparable to what's available from other half-elf subraces.

Default Rules: Three ability score increases, Darkvision, Fey Ancestry, and numerous excellent subrace options to support a variety of rogue builds.

  • Aquatic Half-ElfSCAG: Only in an aquatic campaign.
  • Drow Half-ElfSCAG: With enough Charisma, you can make the innate spellcasting very effective. But if you have a lot of Charisma you're probably playing a Face so the Standard Half-Elf is probably a better choice.
  • High Half-ElfSCAG: Roughly equivalent to the High Elf. Grab Booming Blade and enjoy your easy hit-and-run tactics.
  • Standard Half-ElfPHB: Rogues get a lot of skills, but not nearly enough to cover everything that a Rogue may want to do, especially if you're the party's Face. Two more skills makes you extremely capable both inside and outside of combat.
  • Wood Half-ElfSCAG: Nothing even remotely comparable to what's available from other half-elf subraces.

Half-OrcPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. The Half-Orc's Savage Attacks and Relentless Endurance are their signature traits. Savage Attack synergizes well the Assasinate, so half-orc assassins may be interesing, but will drop in effectiveness after the first round of combat. Relentless Endurance is nice, but not particularly important on the Rogue.

Default Rules: I really want to use Savage Attacks with the Assassin's Assassinate ability, but the Half-Orc's ability bonuses just don't help a Rogue.

HalflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Brave, and Lucky. Lucky isn't as impactful for the Rogue as it is for classes which make multiple attacks, but the Rogue's numerous skills may mean that you're rolling enough skills to enjoy Lucky's benefits frequently.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is a great way to avoid notice while doing rogue things.
  • LightfootPHB: The ability to hide behind your party's Defender is a huge tactical asset when combined with Cunning Action.
  • StoutPHB: A bit of the Dwarf's durability, but with the ability to rearrange ability scores why not just play a dwarf?

Default Rules: A Dexterity bonus is great, and Lucky is always helpful, especially since Rogues generally only get one or two attacks.

  • GhostwiseSCAG: Silent Speech is a fun trick, but you'll get more mileage out of other halfling subraces with more helpful ability score increases.
  • LightfootPHB Hide behind the fighter!
  • StoutPHB Good for a durable Rogue, but not as stealthy or charismatic as the Lightfoot Halfling.

HobgoblinVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and some extra proficiencies which you can use to get whips, heavy crossbows, and a tool. The Hobgoblin's noteworthy feature is Saving Face. It provides a great way to turn near-miss failed rolls into successes, especially if you have numerous allies nearby, and since you only make one important attack per turn it may be worth using to make a Sneak Attack when it's tactically impactful to do so.

Default Rules: The ability score increases don't help much, but Saving Face is great on a class which frequently needs to depend on a single attack per round. Hobgoblins also get two free weapon proficiencies of your choice, so you could get proficiency in great weapons like heavy crossbows and whips, both of which can be used for Sneak Attack and have advantages over the Rogue's normally limited weapon options.

Human

Customized Origin:

  • Standard: With perfect ability scores on the table for every race, there is no reason to play the Standard Human.
  • Variant: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no change to the Variant Human.

Default Rules:

  • Standard: Rogues have enough skills that they can reasonably justify having several good ability scores, so take advantage of the point buy method and Human's ability modifiers, and boost a bunch of base 13s to 14. Of course, at that point why not just play a bard and build around Jack of All Trades?
  • Variant: You still get crucial bonuses to Dexterity and something else, and you can get an awesome feat at level 1. The additional skill is great, too. Generally the Custom Lineage is a better fit for the Rogue, but if you're going for a melee build you may prefer to split your increases between Dexterity and Constitution.

KenkuVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Expert Forgery and Mimicry feel like great thematic additions to the Rogue, so even if they're not always mechanically impactful they're excellent flavor. Mimicry may even prove useful while scouting because you can replicate sounds or conversations which you observe.

Default Rules: Good ability score increases and two free skills. Not super flashy, and not as flexible as the Standard Half-Elf, but still good. Expert Forgery and Mimicry feel like great thematic additions to the Rogue, so even if they're not always mechanically impactful they're excellent flavor. Mimicry may even prove useful while scouting because you can replicate sounds or conversations which you observe.

KoboldVGtM

Customized Origin: +2 increase and Darkvision. The Customizing Your Origin optional rule does little to change the Kobold, but it honestly didn't need improvement for the Rogue.

Default Rules: Pack Tactics is insanely powerful for rogues. Get a familiar, a summoned creature, or a friend to stand next to whatever you want to kill and you get automatic Advantage. Sneak Attack is basically guranteed. Oh, and the ability increases are fantastic. The only drawback is Sunlight Sensitivity, but Pack Tactics conveniently negates that.

LizardfolkVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and natural armor. If you're fine with Hungry Jaws being unreliable, you can build around Dexterity and hit 18 AC.

Default Rules: The Lizardfolk's natural armor will provide more AC than manufactured light armor can, and two free skills are a nice complement to the Rogue's already expansive skillset. Lizardfolk do great when built to emphasize Dexterity, but Hungry Jaws is always dependent on Strength, so emphasizing Dexterity likely means giving up on Hungry Jaws.

LocathahLR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, and Leviathan Will. Among the better aquatic options, Leviathan Will provides a robust defensive option against a long list of harmful status conditions which any adventurer is sure to face and which you can't mitigate with Uncanny Dodge or Evasion.

Default Rules: The Dexterity increase and the free skills are decent, though Athletics won't see much use for most rogues. Leviathan Will offers some useful defensive options, too. The Locathah isn't as good as something like the Kenku or the Tabaxi, but it's still viable, and it's the condition resistances protect you from stuff not covered by Evasion or Unanny Dodge.

OrcVGtM

Note that errata has corrected the multiple versions of the Orc to all provide the same traits. The Intelligence decrease has been removed, and the Primal Intuition now allows selecting two skills from a list. The Orc of Exandria entry from Explorer's Guide to Wildemount omits the Powerful Build trait, but it's not clear if that was an intentional change.

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Aggressive is redundant with Cunning Action, so while the Orc is viable there's basically no reason to play an orc over something comparable like the Kenku or ther Tabaxi.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

TabaxiVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, two skills. Feline Agility is the Tabaxi's signature trait. It combines very well with Cunning Action, allowing a tabaxi rogue to run up to six times their land speed if they do nothing else that turn.

Default Rules: Everything about the Tabaxi is perfect for the Rogue. You don't get to select from a list of skills like the Kenku does, but basically every Rogue in existence wants Perception and Stealth anyway.

TieflingPHB

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and damage resistance. Most subraces/variants offer innate spellcasting of some kind. The innate spellcasting is Charisma-based, so anything which requires an attack or a save will be difficult unless you're building yourself to be a Face.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Fine but not impressive. Hellish Rebuke is the only part that cares about your spell DC so it hardly justifies investing in Charisma.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Even with enough Charisma to make the spells work, the spells just aren't very good.
  • DispaterMToF: Situational utility options.
  • FiernaMToF: Weirdly the spells are a great substitute for Face skills, but you need Charisma to make them reliable which probably means that you have Face skills so these are either great in combination with your skills or worthless because you have the skills already. Hard to say.
  • GlasyaMToF: If you're an arcane trickster, this will save you some spells. If you're not an arcane trickers, this gives you some of their signature spell options. Either way, it's great.
  • LevistusMToF: Ray of Frost can't deliver Sneak Attack, and Armor of Agathys is borderline useless since you can't cast it above first level.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Flame blade is garbage.
  • ZarielMToF: The spells are fine and work reasonably well for melee builds, but Searing Smite isn't good enough to justify investing in Charisma.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: The Customizing Your Origin optional rules make the Feral variant obsolete. All it does is rearrange your ability score increases.
  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: A great choice for a Face build, Vicious Mockery offers a great ranged option in those rare situations where Sneak Attack simply isn't possible.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: Sneak Attack will nearly always out-damage Burning Hands.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: On most rogues, flight will be much easier than innate spellcasting. A Winged Tiefling is easy to compare to the Aarakocra, trading 20 ft. of fly speed for Darkvision and resistance to fire damage. Both options work very well for the Rogue, but I think the Tiefling's traits outweight the Aarakocra's speed.

Default Rules: Darkvision and the free spells offer some interesting options, especially with the numerous Tiefling subraces. Depending on your subclass and whether or not you want to be a Face you'll find some subraces more appealing than others. If you have enough Charisma to be your party's Face, the Tiefling's innate spellcasting can be very effective. If you don't, stick to subraces with innate spellcasting that doesn't care about your spellcasting modifier.

  • AsmodeusPHB/MToF: Combined with Feral, this is fine but not impressive. Thaumaturgy is neat, but not especially powerful. Hellish Rebuke is exciting but again, not especially powerful. Darkness is a situational utility option, but without the ability to see through it, it's not a massive tactical advantage for you.
  • BaalzebulMToF: Too reliant on offensive spells that won't work well for the Rogue.
  • DispaterMToF: Good ability spread, and interesting spell options. This is a great option in a campaign with a lot of intrigue, espionage, and social interaction, but even outside of that style of campaign the spell options are likely easier for the Rogue than the Asmodeus Tiefling's spells.
  • FiernaMToF: Too reliant on save DCs and without a Dexterity increase you'll need to combine this with Feral and sabotage your Charisma. There's just no way to make it work.
  • GlasyaMToF: Ideal for tiefling rogues. Several useful spell options normally only available to arcane tricksters and which don't rely on your spellcasting ability modifier, and the ability increases work even if you don't combine this with Feral.
  • LevistusMToF: Combined with Feral, this is workable but not ideal. Ray of Frost won't be useful, and Armor of Agathys isn't especially useful if you can't cast it above 1st level, so this is strictly worse than Feral Asmoedeus.
  • MammonMToF: Situational utility options. They're not particularly useful, but they also don't care about your spellcasting ability modifier.
  • MephistophelesMToF: Mage Hand is the best part of this variant for the Rogue, which should tell you just how bad this is. And, as I say on every class handbook, Flame Blade is garbage.
  • ZarielMToF: Combining Feral will make this just barely interesting thanks to Searing Smite, but Searing Smite is not nearly impactful enough to make this a good idea.
  • Variant: FeralSCAG: Perfect for the Arcane trickster, and it can make several other tiefling variants viable when combined.

    According to the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the Feral Variant is compatible with other variants.

  • Variant: Devil's TongueSCAG: Tempting if you are building a Face with decent Charisma, but hard without a Dexterity increase and combining this with Feral makes the spellcasting less effective.
  • Variant: HellfireSCAG: If you're casting Burning Hands then you're not using Sneak Attack.
  • Variant: WingedSCAG: On most rogues, flight will be much easier than innate spellcasting. Combine this with Feral, and you'll do just fine. A Feral Winged Tiefling is easy to compare to the Aarakocra, trading 20 ft. of fly speed for Darkvision and resistance to fire damage. Both options work very well for the Rogue, but I think the Tiefling's traits outweight the Aarakocra's speed.

TortleTP

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, and natural armor. The natural armor stops mattering when you hit 20 Dexterity, so there's very little reason to play a tortle beyond low levels.

Default Rules: Rogues can't make effective use of Strength or Wisdom, and none of the Tortle's other traits are especially appealing. If you want something similar, consider the Lizardfolk instead.

TritonVGtM

Customized Origin: The Triton's three ability score increases aren't as useful for the Rogue as they are for more MAD classes, and the innate spellcasting is only situationally useful.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

VerdanAcInc

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and one skill. Telepathic Insight protects you from the most common mental saves, and Limited Telepathy allows you to communicate with allies while remaining concealed. Black-Blood Healing isn't super impactful, but it'll make your d8 hit dice a little bit more reliable. Altogether, this is an excellent all-around rogue without adding any complicated new mechanics like flight or innate spellcasting.

Default Rules: The Verdan has a lot that's useful for the Rogue, but without a Dexterity increase you'll have a lot of problems in combat.

Yuan-Ti PurebloodVGtM

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, Darkvision, poison immunity, and Magic Resistance. The innate spellcasting is garbage, but you really don't need it. Magic Resistance is a powerful defense, and combined with Evasion you're basically immune to fireballs and similar spells.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread. The Charisma increase is nice for a Face, but you'll struggle at anything else.

Setting-specific races are address below. Not every setting allows every race, and while most races presented in the core rules and in content for the Forgotten Realms can be used in other settings, races specific to settings like Ravnica aren't typically allowed in other settings. Talk to your DM about what races are allowed in your game.

Races of Eberron

BugbearERLW: See above under the general Races section.

ChangelingERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases and two skills. Shapechange feels very natural on the Rogue, but with several other race options which can cast Disguise Self it feels less unique.

Default Rules: Changelings make natural rogues. Dexterity, Charisma, extra Face skills, and the ability to change your appearance at will allow the Rogue to conduct all sorts of subterfuge. However, because the Changeling's capabilities are so heavily devoted to social situations, you may have trouble delving dungeons compared to other races.

GoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

HobgoblinERLW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcERLW: See above under the general Races section.

KalashtarERLW

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases. Resistance to psychic damage is nice, though psychic damage isn't common. Dual Mind provides an important defense, but other options like the Yuan-Ti Pureblood and the Verdan are more appealing and may be more broadly effective at protecting you from stuff that hurts your brains.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

ShifterERLW

Customized Origin:+2/+1 increases (each subrace provides an additional +2), Darkvision, and one skill. The Shifter's signature trait is Shifting, which is a Bonus Action combat buff which works great but can compete with the Rogue's other uses for their Bonus Action (Two-Weapon Fighting and Cunning, plus potentially subclass features). It's a decent buff on its own, and your subrace will offer additional effects.

  • Beasthide: A bigger pool of temporary hit points and a modest AC bonus can be helpful, but most rogues shouldn't be drawing enough fire for this to be consistently useful, and you have Uncanny Dodge to pad your hit points.
  • Longtooth: The attack is Strength-based and since it's not a weapon it can't deliver Sneak Attack.
  • Swiftstride: Redundant with Cunning Action.
  • Wildhunt: The shifting feature is borderline useless.

Default Rules: Darkvision is fantastic on any rogue, but the Shifter's subraces offer nothing that the Rogue can't already do.

  • Beasthide: Bad ability spread.
  • Longtooth: Bad ability spread, and the bonus action bite attack can't deal Sneak Attack.
  • Swiftstride: The ability score increases are great, but the Shifting Feature doesn't give you anything that you couldn't already do with Cunning Action.
  • Wildhunt: The ability increases are fine, but the Shifting Feature is almost useless.

WarforgedERLW

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Warforged. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: The flexible ability increase can give you the crucial Dexterity increase, but the bonus to AC isn't as important to the Rogue because it's so easy for the Rogue to remove themselves from situations where they would take damage, and you can rely on Uncanny Dodge to mitigate any damage you do suffer. Still, if you want to be a rogue but you also need to be your party's Defender, consider a Swashbuckler build. If you get proficiency with shields, you can manage an AC of 20, and with Uncanny Dodge you'll be difficult to kill despite relatively poor hit points compared to the Fighter.

Dragonmarks

While the design intent for Dragonmarks was that they would offer some innate spellcasting for everyone, every dragonmark includes an expanded spell list which is arguably a more significant benefit than most of the provided racial traits. Because the expanded spell options are such an important part of the dragonmarks, if you're not playing a spellcaster you're giving up a huge part of your racial traits, which makes it exceptionally difficult to justify playing a dragonmark character who can't cast spells.

Dragonmarked DwarfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Warding: While most of the spells are situational, Mark of Warding has some exciting benefits. The bonus with Thieves' Tools will be consistently useful in many campaigns, and it works on top of Expertise so you can be truly incredible with Thieves' Tools. Mage Armor is +1 AC compared to the best light armor and lasts 8 hours, providing a consistent increase in durability. Armor of Agathys is an interesting choice for the Arcane Trickster, and provides both an easy source of temporary hit points and a way to punish enemies for hitting you. You can also combine it with Uncanny Dodge to stretch the temporary hit points and get more out of the spell than usual.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Warding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Shadow: Everything about Mark of Shadow is perfect for the rogue. The only new spell for the Arcane Trickster is Pass Without Trace, but Pass Without Trace is really good so that's hardly a drawback.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Shadow: An obvious choice for the Rogue. Unfortunately, Mark of Shadow's spell options are almost all available to the Arcane Trickster already, so the only rogue subclass which can use the extra spells gains very little benefit from them.
Dragonmarked GnomeERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Scribing: The benefits are far too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Scribing: Bad ability spread.

Dragonmarked Half-ElfERLW

Dragonmark traits replace some of your normal racial traits, as described in the entry for each Dragonmark.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Detection: The skill bonuses are great for skills which are important but which typically don't rank high enough to justify Expertise. Most of the spells are only situationally useful, but See Invisibility is excellent for a class which frequently scouts areas while separated from the party.
  • Mark of Storm: The benefits are too weak and too situational.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Detection: The flexible ability increase can go into Dexterity, and the spellcasting adds divination options which the Arcane Trickster can't usually cast, allowing you to use magic to improve your scouting abilities. However, you do still need to learn the spells normally and with the cap on spells known beyond your school limitations that can be difficult.
  • Mark of Storm: The ability increases work for the Rogue, but the other benefits are too situational and there is very little on the spell list which arcane tricksters can justify learning.

Dragonmarked Half-OrcERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: The bonuses to Perception and Survival are nice, and thematically this can make the Rogue feel a bit more like the Ranger. But before you go for the Scout, remember that you don't get to use any of the spells except Hunter's Mark unless you're an Arcane Trickster, and Hunter's Mark is basically useless for the Rogue. Unfortunately, most of the spells aren't worth learning with your few spaces for spells outside of the enchantment/illusion schools.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: Bad ability spread.
Dragonmarked HalflingERLW

Dragonmark traits replace your subrace.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Healing: The idea of a rogue who can also heal is tempting, but the amount of healing you get to do is miniscule. Unless you're an arcane trickster, the Variant Aasimar is a more effective package. Even if you are an arcane trickster, you still need to spend your limited non-restricted spells known to benefit, and with your tiny pool of spell slots that's likely not worth the effort.
  • Mark of Hospitality: Very few of the traits are consistently useful. The innate spellcasting includes some neat utilities, but they'll make little mechanical impact. The spell list is difficult to justify for the Arcane Trickster. There's basically nothing here that you need.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Healing: The ability score increases work fine, and the expanded healing options allow the Arcane Trickster to serve as a healer in a pinch. Rogues tend to stay alive when things go poorly for the rest of the party, so having access to Healing Word is a benefit which is difficult to ignore. However, you do still need to learn the spells normally and with the cap on spells known beyond your school limitations that can be difficult.
  • Mark of Hospitality: The ability score increases work fine, but the spells aren't especially useful for a class with access to so little spellcasting, and since you get to learn so few spells beyond enchantment/illusion it's difficult to justify learning the spells offered by Mark of Hospitality.
Dragonmarked HumanERLW

Dragonmark traits replace ALL of your normal racial traits.

Customized Origin:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Even with the ability to rearrange ability scores, there's no way to set your scores to support this. Even if you could, by the time an arcane trickster could put the spells to use you'll be such high level that beasts will stop appearing often enough to justify any of this. Sure, you get The Bigger They Are, but that's extremely situational and it's nowhere near enough to make this worthwhile.
  • Mark of Making: Magic Weapon is neat, but nothing else here is particularly appealing, and most of the spells are already on the Wizard's spell list so the Arcane Trickster doesn't get any new options.
  • Mark of Passage: Misty Step once per Long Rest and arcane tricksters can learn Pass Without Trace. Mark of Shadow is generally a better choice.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Several very interesting defensive options. Shield once per day for free, and Shield of Faith among other defensive buffs available for arcane tricksters. Unfortunately, Sheild of Faith will conflict with Shadow Blade so you'll need to choose between offense and defense, and generally rogues lean toward offense.

Default Rules:

  • Mark of Finding: See Mark of Finding under Dragonmarked Half-Orc, above. Mechanically, the final racial traits are identical.
  • Mark of Handling: Thematically a scout rogue makes sense, but to benefit from the spellcasting you want to play an arcane trickster. The ability score increases work fine, and the spells are neat, but you'll need to somehow have high scores in Dexterity, Intelligence, and Wisdom to support the spellcasting, and unless animals are weirdly common in your campaign you'll get the spells so late that you'll almost certainly never encounter anything worth targeting tiwth the spells.
  • Mark of Making: The ability increases work for the Arcane Trickster, but the spellcasting does surpisingly little to help you. Magic Weapon doesn't affect Shadow Blade, and the spells are all on the Wizard's spell list already so you don't get any new options. The ability scores are basically all that you get.
  • Mark of Passage: Perfect ability score increases, and the spellcasting adds some useful options for the Arcane Trickster including Pass Without Trace. Beyond the ability score increases, Mark of Shadow is generally a better choice.
  • Mark of Sentinel: Bad ability spread.

Races of Ravnica

CentaurGGTR

Customized Origin: Too dependent on Strength to work for the Rogue.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

GoblinGGTR: See above under the general Races section.

LoxodonGGTR

Customized Origin: Keen Smell is the best that the Loxodon has to offer. The natural armor will be as good as light armor at the absolute best, Trunk will be useless without heavy investment in Strength, and Loxodon Serenity can be matched by a number of other races.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurGGTR

Customized Origin: Too dependent on Strength to work for the Rogue.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

Simic HybridGGTR

Customized Origin: The Customizing Your Origin rules make no meaningful changes to the Simic Hybrid. You can move the Constitution increase around, but increasing Constitution is still the best way to use that increase.

Default Rules: Versatile and fantastic. Animal Enhancements can solve several problems which normally require magic, though some of the better options like Grappling Appendages hold little appeal for the Rogue.

VedalkenGGTR

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, one skill, one tool. Vedalken Dispassion is a powerful defense, and Tireless Precision can provide useful bonuses with skills and tools which will stack with Expertise to make you borderline unstoppable.

Default Rules: The ability scre increases are hard without a Dexterity increase, but Tireless Precision can be very useful for crucial proficiencies like Thieves' Tools.

Races of Theros

CentaurMOoT: See above under the Races of Ravnica section.

HumanMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

LeoninMOoT

Customized Origin: 2/+1 increases, Darkvision, and one skill. Daunting Roar is neat, but if you ever need it you should probably run away instead.

Default Rules: Bad ability spread.

MinotaurMOoT: See above under the Ravnica Races section.

SatyrMOoT

Customized Origin: +2/+1 increases, two skills, Fey creature type, and Magic Resistance. Not quite as durable as the Yuan-Ti Pureblood, but the Rogue needs skills more than they need Poison Immunity.

Default Rules: Dexterity, Charisma, two free skills, and Magic Resistance. Great for any build except the Arcane Trickster.

TritonMOoT: See above under the general Races section.

Races of Wildemount

AarakocraEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

AasimarEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

BugbearEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

DragonbornPHB

Wildemount presents two new Dragonborn variants, each replacing the standard Dragonborn's ability score increases and damage resistance.

Customized Origin:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Forceful Presence is neat, but if you're that worried about these skills then you should put Expertise into them. Still, Darkvision is a big win for the Rogue so the Draconblood Dragonborn is a good improvement on the standard Dragonborn.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Sneak Attack is once per turn, so Vengeful Assault can deliver an additional Sneak Attack outside of your turn. You also get Darkvision, which is an improvement over the standard dragonborn.

Default Rules:

  • DraconbloodEGtW: Bad ability spread.
  • RaveniteEGtW: Bad ability spread.

Elf

Wildemount elves share the core traits of PHB elves, but Wildemount adds two new subraces. See above for more information on other elf subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: The skill bonuses are helpful for skills that typically don't rank high enough to justify Expertise, and you can cast Invisibility once per long rest. On top of the Elf's core traits, that's a good package. If you want more spellcasting, consider the Glasya Tiefling instead.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

Default Rules:

  • Pallid ElfEGtW: Wisdom is great for Perception, and Incisive Sense offers a significant bonus on skills which the Rogue is often expected to be good at. Blessing of Moon Weaver is a great addition, but while Invisibility is perpetually useful Sleep will be obsolete by the time you get the ability to cast it.
  • Sea ElfEGtW / MToF: See above under the general Races section.

FirbolgsEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GenasiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

HalflingPHB

Wildemount halflings share the core traits of PHB halflings, but Wildemount adds a new subrace. See above for information on other halfling subraces.

Customized Origin:

  • LotusdenEGtW: The spellcasting is Wisdom-based, and with the ability to rearrange ability scores the Lotusden Halfling needs to distinguish itself with spellcasting that simply isn't workable for the vast majority of rogues.

Default Rules:

  • LotusdenEGtW: An interesting concept and absolutely workable, but the spellcasting might not be as useful as traits provided by other halfling subraces, especially since it's Wisdom-based.

HobgoblinEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

GoliathEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

KenkuEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

OrcEGtW: See above, under "Races of Eberron". Wildemount uses the updated Orc racial traits rather than the original traits published in Volo's Guide to Monsters.

TabaxiEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

TortleEGtW: See above under the general Races section.

Skills

  • Acrobatics (Dex): Very situational.
  • Athletics (Str): Rogues don't really do anything that requires Athletics. Thieves might want it for climbing, but even that is very infrequent.
  • Deception (Cha): Important for a Face.
  • Insight (Wis): Important for a Face.
  • Intimidation (Cha): Important for a Face.
  • Investigation (Int): Very helpful, but not as important as Perception.
  • Perception (Wis): Perception is by far the most important skill in the game, and it's important that several characters in the party have it.
  • Performance (Cha): Performance is for Bards.
  • Persuasion (Cha): Essential for a Face.
  • Sleight of Hand (Dex): Sleight of Hand is very thematic for many Rogues, but it's not very useful.
  • Stealth (Dex): A Rogue without Stealth is a very strange Rogue.

Background

This section does not address every published background, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover the options which I think work especially well for the class, or which might be tempting but poor choices. Racial feats are discussed in the Races section, above.

Rogues can do a lot, but they also need a lot of skills to do it all. Look for backgrounds which fill in proficiencies which are already on the Rogue skill list but which you couldn't get with yoour choice of two skills.

If you're having trouble deciding, here are some suggestions:

  • AcolytePHB: Insight and Religion can be decent options for a Rogue with the right abilities, and extra languages are helpful for a Face.
  • CharlatanPHB: Two Rogue skills and two tool kits.
  • City WatchSCAG: Athletics doesn't do much for Rogues, but Insight and free languages are great for a Face.
  • Cloistered ScholarSCAG: Two knowledge skills and two language can be excellent additions to a Face with decent Intelligence.
  • CourtierSCAG: Perfect for a Face.
  • CriminalPHB: Two important Rogue skills, and two tool kits. You already get Thieves' Tools proficiency as a Rogue, so you can replace Thieves' Tools with another proficiency of the same type. I recommend Poisoner's Kit.
  • EntertainerPHB: Disguise Kit proficiency is really the only interesting piece.
  • Faction AgentSCAG: Fantastic for a Face, and it allows you to fill in a social skill which you couldn't get elsewhere.
  • Far TravelerSCAG: Two excellent skills for a Rogue, a bonus language, and proficiency with an item that you'll probably never use.
  • Guild ArtisanPHB: Two important skills for any Face, but the tool proficiency isn't very helpful.
  • InheritorSCAG: You can't really use Survival, but the rest is decent. Far Traveler provides similar options with better skills.
  • Mercenary VeteranSCAG: Athletics is occasionally useful for Rogues, and any face needs Persuasion.
  • NoblePHB: A good choice for a Face. History is decent if you have a bit of Intelligence to back it up.
  • SagePHB: An Arcane Trickster might have enough Intelligence to justify two knowledge skills, and the extra languages are nice for a Face.
  • Urban Bounty HunterSCAG: Basically two additional skill choices from the Rogue class skills, plus some tool proficiencies, including the ever-important Thieve's Tools.
  • UrchinPHB: Two important Rogue skills, and two tool kits. You already get Thieves' Tools proficiency as a Rogue, so you can replace Thieves' Tools with another proficiency of the same type. I recommend Poisoner's Kit.
  • Waterdavian NobleSCAG: Potentially good for a Face with decent Intelligence.

Feats

This section does not address every published feat, as doing so would result in an ever-growing list of options which don't cater to the class. Instead, this section will cover feats which I think work especially well for the class or which might be tempting but poor choices.

  • AlertPHB: Going first is great for Rogues, especially Assassins.
  • ActorPHB: Complements the Assassin's disguise and infiltration abilities very nicely.
  • Crossbow ExpertPHB: If you're built to fight at range, Crossbow Expert is tempting. Allowing an additional crossbow attack as a bonus action gives you a backup option if you fail to deliver a Sneak Attack on your first attack, and unlike two-weapon fighting you get to apply your ability modifier to damage with the additional attack. However, you can accomplish the same thing by throwing daggers (though your range is considerably reduced). The ability to use ranged weapons while adjacent to enemies is also tempting, but that's what Cunning Action is for.
  • Defensive DuelistPHB: Very tempting for melee Rogues, but Uncanny Dodge also uses your reaction, and fills roughly the same function.
  • Dual WielderPHB: The best case scenario for this feat is upgrading from two short swords to two rapiers, and the tiny bit of extra damage is hardly worth a feat. The +1 AC is nice too, but raising your Dexterity will get you the same AC and damage boosts, plus it will improve your other crucial stats. Two-weapon fighting should be primarily considered a way to get an extra sneak attack rather than a go-to source of damage output
  • Dungeon DelverPHB: Handling traps and secret doors frequently falls to the Rogue, and with the Rogue's skills this can make you extremely effective in a dungeon-heavy campaign.
  • DurablePHB: Leave this for your party's front line.
  • Eldritch AdeptTCoE: If you don't have Darkvision from your racial traits, the Devil's Sight invocation is a great way to get it. Unfortunately you do need some spellcasting to qualify, so this is only available to the Arcane Trickster. If you want to consider other invocations, see my Warlock Eldritch Invocation Breakdown.
  • Elemental AdeptPHB: Offensive spells (with the exception of Green-Flame Blade) aren't a good option for Arcane Tricksters because you can't apply Sneak Attack, and if you're worried about damage resistance you can use Booming Blade instead since almost nothing resists sonic damage.
  • Fey TouchedTCoE: Tempting for many rogues, especially arcane tricksters. Misty Step is extremely useful in a variety of situations, and the leveled spells can add some utility options which are hard to replicate without magic. Avoid Hex and Hunter's Mark since the Rogue makes so few attacks, but consider Bless and Gift of Alacrity.

    For more advice on Fey Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Fighting InitiateTCoE: If you're relying on bows, Fighting Style (Archery) can be a huge improvement to your damage output. Blind Fighting may be helpful since the Rogue doesn't have a built-in way to handle invisible foes, and blindsight conveniently allows you to fight within the area of magical darkness or an Eversmoking Bottle so combining the two is an easy way to get the upper hand in combat.
  • GunnerTCoE: Upgrading from a hand crossbow to a musket can be a minor damage boost, but getting proficiency with longbows from your race is less costly and arguably more effective since you're not giving away your position by shooting a gun. Bows aren't totally silent, but they're nowhere near as loud as a firearm.
  • HealerPHB: The best use case for this feat is the Thief. Thanks to Fast Hands, you can use a Healer's Kit as a Bonus Action, allowing you to revive dying allies and retore a small amount of hit points. Of course, you can do the same thing with a Potion of Healing as an Action, so it's a question of how often you need to come to the rescue in a game where Healing Word exists. In fact, you might just take Magic Initiate with Bard, Cleric, or Druid to get Healing Word for the rare times where your party's spellcasters can't do the job because you'll also get two cantrips and because Healing Word works at range.
  • Inspiring LeaderPHB: A Rogue with good enough Charisma to use this feat is an excellent choice. Temporary hit points hugely reduce your need for magical healing, and there is little reason not to use this before every fight.
  • Magic InitiatePHB: The Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide introduced Booming Blade and Green-Flame Blade, both of which are an Action and allow you to make a melee attack with a weapon, thereby allowing you to use them in conjunction with Sneak Attack. Since Rogues never get Extra Attack, these cantrips can be a significant boost to both damage and utility. Booming Blade is a great way to discourage enemies from following you after you hit them and using Cunning Action to Disengage, and Green-Flame Blade grants some easy bonus damage, plus it allows you to damage a second target, which is particularly nice since Rogues are so bad at handling crowds of enemies. You may also consider options like True Strike to get easy advantage (it only has somatic components, so you can easily use it while hiding) if you're not using the Steady Aim Optional Class Feature.

    Unless you're an Arcane Trickster, the 1st-level spell should probably be a long-duration buff like Mage Armor (don't do it; real armor is better) or a reliable utility option. Find Familiar is tempting so that you can get an owl to fly in and out of combat taking the Help action, but you get to cast the spell daily so you may want something that you'll definitely use on a daily basis so you don't feel like your under-using the feat.

    For more advice on Magic Initiate, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • Martial AdeptPHB: One maneuver per short rest isn't enough to justify this for the Rogue.
  • Metamagic AdeptTCoE: Powerful, but the Arcane Trickster doesn't get enough spellcasting to make this an easy choice. For advice on Metamagic Adept, see my Sorcerer Metamagic Breakdown.
  • MobilePHB: Hit-and-run tactics are great for melee Rogues, but moving out of a creatures threatened area is normally dangerous. This allows you to run in, attack, then run away safely. You can use Cunning Action to Dash, allowing you to move considerably further in one round, and possibly to hide behind difficult terrain.
  • Moderately ArmoredPHB: You need to be improving your Dexterity enough that medium armor shouldn't be a good option.
  • ObservantPHB: Potentially helpful if no one else in your party has Investigation or Perception, but probably overkill. If you really need this, use Expertise to improve your skills.
  • PiercerTCoE: Easy to fit into your build, and with Sneak Attack you'll have a die which rolls low almost every turn so you'll benefit from the reroll mechanic constantly. The critical hit mechanic doesn't matter much since rogues get by on small damage dice, and with so few attacks critical hits will be infrequent for most rogues (assassins are an exception).
  • PoisonerTCoE: If you have a ton of money and nothing to spend it on, this is a great way to turn it into damage output. The poison provided by the feat is both inexpensive compared to other poisons (which are prohibitively expensive) and deals a reasonable amount of damage plus the Poisoned condition. Unfortunately, the DC 14 Constitution save will be unreliable against many enemies, so you'll need to be picky about when to use poisons rather than using them in every encounter. Because applying a poison requires your Bonus Action, you'll need to juggle poisoning your weapons with your other Bonus Action options like Cunning Action. Fighting at range will make this action management simpler, but missing with an arrow or a crossbow bolt likely wastes the dose of poison, so you're trading one problem for another.
  • ResilientPHB: Constitution saves might be helpful, but other saves aren't common enough to justify taking this over Lucky.
  • Ritual CasterPHB: A great way for Arcane Tricksters to improve their utility options if your party lacks dedicated spellcasters. Find Familiar is a fantastic option because your familiar can take the Help action to grant you Advantage on your attacks.
  • Savage AttackerPHB: This is a bad feat. The largest damage die (d12), yields an average of 2 extra damage per turn, and generally the Rogue's biggest damage die is only 1d8.
  • SentinelPHB: Sentinel can be a great way to get opportunity attacks, thereby giving you more opportunities to apply Sneak Attack. However, you may find it difficult to apply Sneak Attack because you can't guarantee positioning or Advantage on other creatures' turns. An enemy could easy move around within your reach until it is no longer adjacent to one of your allies before leaving your threatened area, thereby avoiding the bonus damage from Sneak Attack. Swashbucklers will be able to make best use of this part of the feat since their positioning requirements are so easily met. It's also unlikely that enemies will attack your allies while you're in reach because rogues are relatively soft targets. With light armor and 1d8 hit points, you're among the most frail melee characters. However, if you have a paladin in the party you can capitalize on options like Compelled Duel.
  • Shadow TouchedTCoE: An Arcane Trickster can already replicate the interesting parts of Shadow Touched.

    For more advice on Shadow Touched, see my Spellcasting Feats Breakdown.

  • SharpshooterPHB: Absolutely fantastic for archer Rogues. Combined with Sneak Attack, you can do some truly crazy damage. Just be sure that you have Advantage, or you're going to miss frequently, and hitting so that you an deliver Sneak Attack is more important than the damage boost from Sharpshooter. If the Steady Aim Optional Class Feature is an option, combining it with Sharpshooter is very effective.
  • Skill ExpertTCoE: You probably don't need more skills or more expertise, but it certainly doesn't hurt.
  • SkilledPHB: With Reliable Talent you can reliably use any skill you know, even with a mediocre ability score.
  • SkulkerPHB: Very helpful for archer Rogues who like to rely on sniping.
  • Spell SniperPHB: You can't use Sneak Attack with spell attacks.
  • TelekineticTCoE: It may be difficult to juggle your Bonus Action between this and things like Cunning Action, but it offers and easy way to get out of grapples without spending your Action to try to escape. Telekinetic is especially worthwhile for the Arcane Trickster since it removes the spellcasting components, allowing you to use it totally undetected.
  • TelepathicTCoE: Unlike many sources of telepathy, including those offered by some races, this telepathy still uses languages, so the benefits are minimally appealing even for a Face. You do get to increase a mental ability score, which reduces the cost of the feat, but the benefits are primarily the ability to communicate while being stealthy.
  • War CasterPHB: Tempting for Arcane Tricksters thanks to Green-Flame Blade and Booming Blade, but definitely not necessary.

Weapons

  • Crossbow, Hand: A decent ranged weapon, but it doesn't do anything that you can't do with a light crossbow.
  • Crossbow, Light: The go-to ranged weapon. The same range as a short bow with a better damage die. The reload property doesn't matter since rogues don't get Extra Attack.
  • Dagger: Great for Two-weapon fighting, and you can throw them if you need to, but the Short Sword has a slightly larger damage die.
  • Longsword: I'm not sure why Rogues get proficiency with long swords.
  • Rapier: Your best bet for single-weapon melee.
  • Shortsword: Ideal for Two-weapon fighting. Comparable to daggers, but you can't throw them
  • Short bow: Light crossbow is strictly better.

Armor

  • Leather: Free starting armor for light armor users. Upgrade as soon as you can afford it.
  • Studded Leather: Your permanent armor.

Multiclassing

This section briefly details so obvious and enticing multiclass options, but doesn't fully explore the broad range of multiclassing combinations. For more on multiclassing, see my Practical Guide to Multiclassing.

  • Artificer: The Artificer is an interesting option for many rogues. The Artificer's cantrips include melee cantrips like Booming Blade, and their spellcasting includes a combination of buffs and healing options which can add a lot of utility. Two levels gets you access to Infusions, including powerful options like Enhanced Defence and replicate Magic Item so that you can get Goggles of Night if your race doesn't have Darkvision. Three levels gets you a subclass, and the Armorer subclass's Infiltrator Armor offers perpetual advantage on Stealth checks as well as a powerful ranged attack option which you can choose to use with Dexterity and which works with Sneak Attack since it's a weapon attack. If magic items like a Cloak of Elvenkind are available in your game this is less appealing, but in games where that's not an option the Artificer is very tempting.
  • Barbarian: Reckless Attack is very tempting because it provides a guaranteed means of gaining Advantage and dramatically improves your probability of applying Sneak Attack. However, on a class as frail as the Rogue it's extremely dangerous to grant Advantage against yourself and there are plenty of other ways to gain reliable access to Advantage and Sneak Attack. You also need to make the attack using Strength rather than Dexterity, which is a hard way to build a rogue most of the time. At level 18 Elusive negates the downside of Reckless Attack, but building a character around one trick which won't work until level 20 almost never pays off since so few campaigns reach high levels.
  • Bard: Want more Expertise? Consider College of Eloquence, and three levels gets you Expertise in two more skills and a floor on your d20 rolls for Depection and Persuasion checks. Perfect for a Face build.
  • Fighter: Fighting Style goes a very long way for the Rogue if you go for Archery, but Two-Weapon Fighting is a trap. Adding 2-5 damage (depending on your Dexterity) really won't matter compared to your Sneak Attack damage, so stick to Rogue for Two-Weapon Fighting builds. Swashbucklers might consider the Fencing style and pick up a shield (and possibly even medium armor) so that they can make good use of Panache. The +2 damage outpaces the 1.75 average Sneak Attack damage you get per Rogue level, so a single level won't cut into your damage output.

    If you can suffer three levels of Fighter, the Battle Master offer some useful options. Riposte allows you a reliable way to get an extra Sneak Attack per round (remember that Sneak Attack is once per turn), especially for swashbucklers who can apply Sneak Attack easily in melee unassisted. Feinting Attack also provides Advantage, allowing for easy Sneak Attack during your turn. However, those options depend on Superiority dice, so your usage is severely limited and you'll need to manage your pool of dice carefully.

    If you're going for a Strength-based build, starting with 1 level in Fighter gets you heavy armor in exchange for the Rogue's additional skill and tool proficiencies. If you don't need the extra proficiencies, that might be a fine trade.

  • Monk: Way of the Shadow is a massively tempting option for Rogues, but the 3rd-level benefit isn't worth three levels, and the 6th-level benefit costs you too much to obtain.
  • Ranger: 2 levels gets you a Fighting Style and access to Hunter's Mark, which makes Two-Weapon Fighting more viable (though still not necessarily great). Three levels opens up a Ranger achetype, and the Hunter can select Giant Slayer as their 3rd-level ability. Giant Slayer allows you an attack as a reaction, offering a way to get an extra Sneak Attack per round every round without a usage limitation.
  • Sorcerer: 1 level of Draconic Bloodline gets your damage resistance to one damage type, 13+Dex AC (beating any non-magical light armor by at least 1), and a bit of spellcasting. If you stick to spells which don't require spell attacks or saving throws (utility options and options like Booming Blade), you could benefit from this class dip without more than the 13 Charisma required to multiclass into Sorcerer. For your leveled spells options like Absorb Elements and Shield are tempting, but don't feel locked into those options since the Rogue gets Uncanny Dodge and Evasion which provide much of the same functions.
  • Warlock: Sadly your can't deliver Sneak Attack with Eldritch Blast, but there's still plenty here to make a Rogue+Warlock enticing. For a high-Charisma build, a single level of Hexblade will allow you to use Charisma for attacks, allowing you to improve your social skills and your combat abilities at the same time. 3rd level gets you Pact Boon, and if you select Pact of the Blade you can retrain your Eldritch Invocation gained at 2nd level to get Improved Pact Weapon (+1 to attacks and damage!).
  • Wizard: One level gets you some spellcasting, including ritual casting and access to great options like Booming Blade and Find Familiar. Two levels to pick up the Bladesinging tradition offers some excellent options for melee Rogues, including proficiency in a one-handed melee weapon like the Whip. Bladesong grants a nice AC boost (especially for Arcane Tricksters) and some other great benefits, and access to Wizard spells removes the need for the Magic Initiate feat. Since you have more spell options than Magic Initiate provides, pick up Find Familiar and have your familiar use the Help action to grant you Advantage (and therefore Sneak Attack) on your attacks.

Magic Items

Common Magic Items

  • Clockwork AmuletXGtE: Only works once per day, but in many encounters a guaranteed 10 on attack roll will guarantee a hit (Players will hit an average CR-appropriate enemy's AC on an 8 or better. See my article on The Fundamental Math of Character Optimization.) For high-value attacks (any Sneak Attack, basically), that can be great insurance. Even better: you don't need to attune this, so you can rotate through a stack of them if your DM is somehow crazy enough to let you get away with it.
  • Horn of Silent AlarmXGtE: A helpful tool for any Scout, the effect allows you to communicate with your allies (albeit in very simple fashion) at a distance without giving away your position and without relying on more complicated and expensive options like telepathy. Use one blare to alert your party that you're in danger, and establish a meaning for two or more blares before you go off scouting. Example: Two blares means come to me, but be cautious. Three blares means come get me, but the way is safe.
  • Masquerade TattooTCoE: Disguise Self once per day. Basically a cheaper Hat of Disguises. You won't be able to change your disguise, but it's still fantastically useful for a Common item.
  • Moon-Touched SwordXGtE: This solves two problems for the martial characters. First, the sword glows almost as brightly as a torch, allowing you to see in dark places without devoting a hand to a torch and without asking your allies to cast light or something. Second, and more important, it allows you to overcome damage resistance to non-magic attacks. Resistances like this are common as you gain levels, and the Moon-Touched Sword is an inexpensive way to overcome them until a better weapon comes along.
  • Unbreakable ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but it's only one arrow so you really want to get a magic bow. Since the arrow can't be broken, it's weirdly useful for wedging doors and windows closed or open.
  • Walloping ArrowDMG: Great for archers to overcome resistance to damage from non-magical attacks, but the DC of 10 won't be reliable and knocking foes prone makes it hard to hit them with ranged attacks which may hamper you and your allies.

Uncommon Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +1DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Amulet of Proof against Detection and LocationDMG: Permanent Nondetection, similar to the spell. Combine this with Invisibility, and you can't be detected by common countermeasures like See Invisibility.
  • Boomerang, +1DMG: Helpful if you need a thrown weapon occasionally, but you can't use two-weapon fighting with it like you can with daggers, and if you hit you no longer have your magic weapon. Throwing mundane daggers is almost certainly more effective.
  • Boots of ElvenkindDMG: Helpful on any stealthy character, though not effective as a Cloak of Elvenkind. Combine with a Cloak of Elvenkind for maximum effect.
  • Bracers of ArcheryDMG: With only one attack per turn (usually), this won't be effective enough to justify the item.
  • Broom of FlyingDMG: Easily overlooked, but one of the best ways to get flight for any character. It doesn't require attunement, and has a fly speed of 50 feet, though many medium characters will exceed the 200 pound limit to reduce the speed to 30 feet, but even then 30 feet fly speed with no duration cap and requiring no action after speaking the command word is absolutely incredible. The only drawback is that you're using the item's speed rather than giving yourself a fly speed, so things that improve your speed won't make the broom move faster, and you can't Dash with the broom. Even so, I honestly can't justify why this is only Uncommon considering how exceptionally good it is.
  • Cloak of ElvenkindDMG: Essential on any stealthy character. Creatures attempting to detect you suffer Disadvantage, and you gain Advantage on Stealth checks to avoid being seen, so you get two layers of protection against creatures detecting you.
  • Cloak of ProtectionDMG: Good on any character, but it requires Attunement and it's not very interesting.
  • Eversmoking BottleDMG: A great way to escape, to hide, to create distractions, or any other number of things, the Eversmoking Bottle is a great tool for any rogue.
  • Eyes of Minute SeeingDMG: Excellent in dungeon crawls. Investigation is typically used for finding things like traps.
  • Eyes of the EagleDMG: Between this and possibly Expertise, it's basically impossible for anything to sneak up on you without using magic.
  • Gloves of ThieveryDMG: Easily replaced by the Enhance Ability spell, but still helpful for stealthy characters.
  • Goggles of NightDMG: Crucial for races which don't get Darkvision, especially if your party can't cast the Darkvision spell for you.
  • Hat of DisguiseDMG: Great for social situations, but usually you can get by with mundane disguises or with a lower-rarity option like a Masquerade Tattoo.
  • Pearl of PowerDMG: Tempting for the Arcane Trickster.
  • Slippers of Spider ClimbingDMG: The next-best thing to flight. Walking up a wall has all the benefits of flying out of reach, making this an excellent option for ranged builds.
  • Stone of Good LuckDMG: Excellent on literally any character, but if you just want better defense a Cloak of Protection may be more effective. Stone of Good Luck shines if you're heavily reliant on skills and ability checks, and not that ability checks include initiative rolls.
  • Weapon of WarningDMG: While it's not as mathematically effective as a +1 weapon, being Attuned to a Weapon of Warning is still hugely beneficial for the Rogue even if you're actually fighting with a different weapon. Assassins in particular will enjoy Advantage on Initiative rolls so that they can more reliably benefit from Assassinate.
  • Weapon, +1DMG: +1 to hit with your attacks improves the likelihood of delivering a Sneak Attack.
  • Winged BootsDMG: Excellent on its own, but Winged Boots are more limited in use than a broom of flying, and they require Attunement.

Rare Magic Items

  • Ammunition, +2DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Amulet of HealthDMG: Setting your Constitution to 19 means that you don't need to put Ability Score Increases into it unless you're really certain that you want 20 Constitution. Less ASI's into Constitution means more room for feats.
  • Armor of ResistanceDMG: Excellent, but unpredictable in most games since you can't perfectly predict what sort of damage you'll face. Fire and poison are safe choices.
  • Armor, +1DMG: +1 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Cloak of DisplacementDMG: Among the best defensive items in the game. Taking damage from any source (spells, etc.) suppresses the effect temporarily, so make a point to kill anything that can damage you without an attack roll.
  • Cloak of the BatDMG: A Cloak of Elvenkind may be more effective for Stealth because it also imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks to detect you, but Cloak of the Bat isn't limited to vision-based checks so it may be more broadly effective if your enemies can also hear or smell you (yes, that's a thing). You can also use it to fly in dim light and darkness, though your hands are occupied (you need to hold the edges of the cloak) so flying in combat may be difficult.
  • Dagger of VenomDMG: Basically just a +1 dagger with a once-per-day poison. The poison is decent, but it's not nearly enough to justify the difference in rarity. Get a +2 weapon instead.
  • FlametongueDMG: Mathematically the +2 bonus to attack rolls from a +2 weapon will be a more consistent improvement to your damage output (especially with the damge bonus from Sneak Attack), but a Flametongue shortsword or rapier is still really fun. The 2d6 damage is multiplied on critical hits, too, so assassin rogues might find it appealing.
  • Periapt of Proof Against PoisonDMG: Poison damage is very common across the full level range, so immunity to it is a significant improvement in your durability.
  • Ring of EvasionDMG: A great way to mitigate damage from AOE spells and things like breath weapons which can often be problems from front-line martial characters, especially if you're not build around Dexterity.
  • Ring of ProtectionDMG: Cloak of Protection is lower rarity and has the same effect.
  • Ring of ResistanceDMG: A fine item in a vaccuum, but a Ring of Spell Storing full of Absorb Elements will be much more effective.
  • Ring of Spell StoringDMG: Fill it with Absorb Elements and Shield, and recharge it whenever possible and this is a spectacular defensive asset.
  • Shadowfell Brand TattooDMG: A Cloak of Elvenkind will technically be better at keeping you hidden because it also imposes Disadvantage on Perception checks to notice you, and the Shadowy Defense effect is partially redundant with Uncanny Dodge.
  • Sun BladeDMG: Basically a +2 rapier that deals radiant damage and does a bit more damage to undead. It's not significantly better than a +2 rapier in the majority of cases. Radiant damage is great, but most creatures with resistance to weapon damage types are affected normally by magic weapons so the benefits of radiant damage compared to piercing or slashing damage from a magical wapon are minor. It works, but I'm not certain that it's worth Attunement compared to a +2 weapon unless you can expect to face fiends and undead with some regularity.
  • Sword of WoundingDMG: Persistent damage that stacks with itself. It's only 1d4 and only once per turn, but it stacks with itself and "once per turn" means that if you can attack again outside of your own turn (Opportunity Attacks, etc.) you can get additional dice very quickly.
  • Weapon, +2DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It's difficult to beat the math here.
  • Wings of FlyingDMG: Broom of Flying is much better, lower rarity, and doesn't require attunement.

Very Rare Magic Items

  • Absorbing TattooTCoE: Good, but too high rarity to devote to a single damage type. Get a Ring of Spell Storing and fill it with Absorb Elements.
  • Ammunition, +3DMG: Single-use and expensive. Get a +X weapon instead, if you can.
  • Animated ShieldDMG: Tempting for anyone not fighting with a one-handed weapon, but a Cloak of Protection is two rarities lower, works persistently, and arguably provides a better numeric bonus.
  • Armor, +2DMG: +2 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective.
  • Manual of Bodily HealthDMG: Permanent Constitution bonus and raises your cap by 2. Unless you're using a magic item that fixes your Constitution as a specific score, this is excellent.
  • Manual of Quickness of ActionDMG: It's difficult to find an item more broadly effective for the Rogue.
  • OathbowDMG: So cool, but so weak. Unless you're attacking your sworn enemy, it's just a magic bow with no benefit other than being chatty. Imagine using Action Surge and Haste and making 9 attacks in one turn and having the bow struggle to whisper "Swift defeat to my enemies" 9 times in six seconds.
  • Spellguard ShieldDMG: Basically only useful against spellcasters, but if you're facing a spellcaster there are few better defenses.
  • Weapon, +3DMG: Mathematically spectacular. It's difficult to beat the math here.

Legendary Magic Items

  • Armor, +3DMG: +3 AC, no attunement. Nothing fancy, but very effective. It feels underwhelming at this rarity, but the math if good.
  • Blood Fury TattooTCoE: The first ability provides a great damage boost which also heals you, and since it's "extra damage" the damage is multiplied on a critical hit. The second ability provides a way to counterattack using your Reaction, and with Advantage on that attack it's an easy and reliable boost to your damage output, and since you make the attack with Advantage it's an easy way to get Sneak Attack outside of your turn. However, the attack uses your Reaction which means that you're not using Uncanny Dodge so you need to weight that risk/reward calculation very carefully.
  • Cloak of InvisibilityDMG: Invisibility is extremely powerful in 5e. Note that this is just the invisible condition, not the spell spell Invisibility, so you can still attack or whatever while invisible.
  • Ioun Stone (Mastery)DMG: Proficiency Bonuses apply to a lot of things and a +1 bonus goes a long way. Attacks, saves, skills, etc. all benefit. For many characters, a Stone of Good Luck will be a better value, but rogues get more skill proficiencies than other classes, and at highl evels you're proficient in three saves (assuming you didn't get more from feats or something), so Ioun Stone (Mastery) applies to enough things that I think you can justify it over a Stone of Good Luck.
  • Luck BladeDMG: Bonuses to attacks and saves, a once per day reroll, and it can cast Wish a few times (maybe. 1d4-1 could be zero). Green if it can't cast Wish.
  • Ring of InvisibilityDMG: Cloak of Invisibility and Ring of Invisibility are very similar, but there is some important nuance to understand. Ring of Invisibility can make you indefinitely invisible, allowing you to do anything except attack and cast spells without breaking your invisibility. Use a breath weapon, activate items (as long as doing so doesn't make you cast a spell), steal things, use the Help action, pick locks, disarm traps, take long rests, etc. can all be done while totally invisible without limit. However, the second you roll initiative the Cloak of Invisibility becomes more powerful because its invisibility isn't broken by you attacking or casting spells.
  • Ring of Spell TurningDMG: Given the choice, I would much rather haqve a Mantle of Spell Resistance simply because the Ring of Spell Turning doesn't provide any protection against area effect spells. Otherwise, this is a really fun item, and if it provided Advantage on saves against area of effect spells it would shoot straight up to blue.
  • Ring of Three WishesDMG: Use this to do one of the things that risks permanently removing the ability to cast Wish, such as granting 10 creatures permanent resistance to once damage type. If you lose the ability to cast Wish, pass this off to another ally who will never be able to cast Wish by any other means. Repeat until the last charge is used.

    For more help with Wish, see my Practical Guide to Wish.

  • Scarab of ProtectionDMG: An upgrade from the Mantle of Spell Resistance, the Scarab of Protection adds a limited benefit against necromancy and undead creatures, and doesn't take up your cloak slot, leaving you free to take items like a Cloak of Protection or Cloak of Invisibility instead.

Example Build - Lightfoot Halfling Rogue (Thief)

Corrie Edgecliff the Lightfoot Halfling Thief

Though her movements are lively and quick, the halfling’s green eyes give you a look that’s all business. Her leather armor, softened with some sort of oil to keep a free range of movement, has more than a few pouches built into it, the right size and shape to hold particulars such as a vial of acid, a bag of ball bearings, or a handful of iron door spikes. Though you cannot see any weapons, you would wager a dragon’s hoard that she has at least three daggers and a blowgun concealed on her person, if not more.

-- Boxed text provided by dScryb (affiliate link)

This is a "Staple Build". This build is simple, and relies on options from the SRD and the Basic Rules wherever possible. If you need a functional build with nothing fancy or complicated, this is a great place to start.

The Lightfoot Halfling Thief is, in my opinion, the most iconic example of the Rogue. My opinion may be biased by my 3rd-edition roots, in which Lidda the Halfling Rogue was the iconic example of the class, but the concept of a halfling sneaking around stealing things dates all the way back to The Hobbit.

With the options available to us in the Basic Rules and the SRD, we'll build our rogue as a combination Face, Scout, and Striker. These are the Rogue's typical roles, and this build can cover all the bases reasonably well at the same time. Our Face and Scout emphasis will be a balance because each will consume our limited choices of skill proficiencies and Expertise. I'll present some suggested options, but I encourage you to customize your build to suit your tastes.

I'll note two DPR entries below: One for a single attack, and one for two-weapon fighting. While the additional attack itself does a miniscule amount of additional damage, the additional opportunity to deal Sneak Attack damage is a massive mathematical advantage that only grows as you gain levels.

Abilities

We will use the ability scores below. They're almost identical to the suggested ability scores presented above for "most rogues", but they're tweaked a little bit to take advantage of the Lightfoot Halfling's ability score increases so that we can get as much out of our build as possible.

Base Increased
Str 8 8
Dex 14 16
Con 14 14
Int 12 12
Wis 12 12
Cha 13 14

Race

Lightfoot Halfling. Dexterity and Charisma is likely the best ability score spread we can get for a thief, and the Lightfoot Halfling's other racial traits offer a bunch of other useful tricks.

Skills and Tools

Rogues get more skills at first level than any other class, and they also get Expertise immediately. You also get Thieves' Tools proficiency on top of the rest.

  • Perception
  • Persuasion
  • Sleight of Hand
  • Stealth

If you choose the Criminal background, you'll get a redundant Stealth proficiency which you can trade for Insight or Intimidation. If you choose the Noble background you'll get a redundant Persuasion proficiency which you can trade for Deception.

For Expertise, I recommend Perception and Stealth. Other skills are appealing, but you're more likely to die because of a failed Perception or Stealth check than for failed Persuasion check. At 6th level you'll get Expertise in two more skills, at which point you should consider skills which fit your campaign. If you're doing a lot of stealing, consider Sleight of Hand and Thieves' Tools. If you're doing a lot socially acceptable things, consider Deception and Persuasion.

Background

Criminal is the obvious choice here, so we'll pick Criminal. However, it might not be the best choice among those available to use. Rogue grants Thieves' Tools proficiency automatically, so Criminal's tool proficiency is redundant. Under the rules for backgrounds, you can replace a redundant proficiency with one of the same type, but what other set of tools do you want? If you want proficiency in something like Healer's Kit or Herbalism Kit, Criminal is great. If you can't think of a second set of tools, look for other background options.

If Criminal doesn't work for you, consider Noble. History proficiency isn't a great choice for our low-Intelligence build, but you get Persuasion, a gaming set, and a language, and Position of Privilege is a great way to roleplay yourself into places with nice things to steal.

Feats

Rogues get one more ability score improvement than most classes, and you only need to bring on ability score (Dexterity) to 20 to be successful, so there is a lot of room for you to pick up feats if you're willing to deviate from the Basic Rules and the SRD. If you're new to the game, consider simple feats like Skilled or Resilient. If you want to dabble in magic, consider Magic Initiate and take a look at the Spells section above.

Levels

Level Feat(s) and Features Notes and Tactics
1
  • Expertise
    • Perception
    • Stealth
  • Sneak Attack 1d6
  • Thieves' Cant

For your starting equipment, take a shortsword, a short bow, any of the pack options, leather armor, two daggers, and theives' tools.

At first level you already have most of what makes you a decent rogue. Sneak Attack is still picking up steam, but 1d6 is a big chunk of damage at this level, so do everything you can to get it.

In combat, you can either fight at range or jump into melee as the situation warrants. If you're fighting at range, you're totally dependent on an ally to be adjacent to your target, so make sure to communicate with your party's front-line characters. If you're fighting in melee, grab your short sword and a dagger and practice two-weapon fighting. If an enemy is just out of reach, throw your dagger; you have two for a reason.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+3 with +1d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 5.6)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+3 and Dagger 1d4 with +1d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 8.1)

2
  • Cunning Action

Cunning Action shakes up your action economy in combat. Now you need think a little more about how to use your Bonus Action.

If you're fighting at range, find cover (potentially behind a medium-sized ally) to hide behind. Each turn you should attack with your bow then use Cunning Action to hide.

If you're fighting in melee, hit-and-run tactics are the ideal. Attack with your short sword, then use Cunning Action to Disengage and move away safely. If you miss, consider using your bonus action to attack with your dagger to get a second chance at dealing Sneak Attack. If you hit and kill your target, consider using Cunning Action to Dash and put some extra distance between you and anything dangerous.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+3 with +1d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 5.6)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+3 and Dagger 1d4 with +1d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 8.1)

3
  • Sneak Attack 2d6
  • Roguish Archetype (Thief)
  • Fast Hands

At 2d6, yor Sneak Attack damge should roughly match the total damage from your weapons and your Dexterity bonus.

Fast Hands is easy to overlook, but the "Use an Item" action covers a lot of great options. Ball Bearings, Caltrops, Holy Water, and some magic items are all activated using the Use An Item action normally. You can do all of those things as a Bonus Action, so you could attack, throw down some caltrops, then move to safety all in one turn.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+3 with +2d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 7.8)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+3 and Dagger 1d4 with +2d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 11.2)

4
  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 16 -> 18)

A numerical increase to the vast majority of what you do feels very satisfying.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+4 with +2d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 8.4)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+4 and Dagger 1d4 with +2d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 11.8)

5
  • Sneak Attack 3d6
  • Uncanny Dodge

More Sneak Attack damage is always welcome, but it doesn't change our tactics in any way. Uncanny Dodge is the interesting gain here. Since it uses your Reaction, it won't cut into your normal activity during your turn. In some cases you might risk provoking an Opportunity Attack knowing that you can use Uncanny Dodge to reduce the damage if you get hit. If you decide to stay still, you can mitigate some damage with Uncanny Dodge but remember that you only get one Reaction per round so creatures with multiple attacks may be a problem.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+4 with +3d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 10.6)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+4 and Dagger 1d4 with +3d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 14.9)

6
  • Expertise
    • Sleight of Hand
    • Thieves' Tools

Fast Fingers allows you to perform Sleight of Hand checks and to use your Thieves' Tools for certain tasks as a bonus action. Expertise will make you better at these tasks. I'm not entirely sure under what circumstances you would do this, but you're now really good at picking pockets in the middle of a fight.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+4 with +3d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 10.6)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+4 and Dagger 1d4 with +3d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 14.9)

7
  • Sneak Attack 4d6
  • Evasion

Evasion makes many AOE effects, including breath weapons and fireballs, less threatening. Your Dexterity saves should be excellent, so you'll frequently be able to fully avoid damage from applicable effects.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+4 with +4d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 12.8)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+4 and Dagger 1d4 with +4d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 18.0)

8
  • Ability Score Improvement (Dexterity 18 -> 20)

This brings our Dexterity to the maximum.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +4d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 13.4)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +4d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 18.6)

9
  • Sneak Attack 5d6
  • Supreme Sneak

Between Expertise and your 20 Dexterity, you have a +13 bonus on Dexterity (Stealth) checks, and now you have a way to get Advantage guaranteed. You're borderline undetectable.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +5d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 15.7)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +5d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 21.7)

10
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 14 -> 16)

At this level we're getting an Ability Score Increase that we don't strictly need. I've suggested Charisma, but if you're doing more fighting than talking you may want Constitution instead.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +5d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 15.7)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +5d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 21.7)

11
  • Sneak Attack 6d6
  • Reliable Talent

Reliable Talent makes you really good at skills. You're already really good, but this removes the possibility of horribly low rolls. It raises the average d20 roll from 10.5 to 12.75, and a +2.25 bonus on all your skills is huge.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +6d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 17.9)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +6d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 24.9)

12
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 16 -> 18)

More Constitution or Charisma. Or a feat. Your choice.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +6d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 17.9)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +6d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 24.9)

13
  • Sneak Attack 7d6
  • Use Magic Device

Use Magic Device only matters in campaigns with magic items, which is odd because 5e so rarely assumes that you use magic items. There are very few magic items with restrictions which this will bypass, but you're going to feel really special if you find one and get to break the rules to use it.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +7d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 20.1)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +7d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 27.9)

14
  • Blindsense

Invisibility becomes more common at high levels, and unless you have a spellcaster handy it's often very difficult to deal with. This helps quite a bit, but remember tha you'll still have Disadvantage to attack the creature because you can't see it.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +7d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 20.1)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +7d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 27.9)

15
  • Sneak Attack 8d6
  • Slippery Mind

More saving throw proficiencies is always excellent.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +8d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 22.3)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +8d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 30.9)

16
  • Ability Score Improvement (Charisma 18 -> 20)

Still more Constitution or Charisma.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +8d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 22.3)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +8d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 30.9)

17
  • Sneak Attack 9d6
  • Thief's Reflexes

Two turns in the first round of combat means two opportunities to deal a Sneak Attack early in the fight. Target foes which you can eliminate quickly so that your party starts the fight with an early advantage.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +9d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 24.5)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +9d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 34.0)

18
  • Elusive

Short of Pack Tactics, most enemies don't have easy ways to gain Advantage against players, so this won't matter frequently, but the few times it comes up you'll be glad to have it.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +9d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 24.5)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +9d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 34.0)

19
  • Sneak Attack 10d6
  • Ability Score Improvement (Constitution 14 -> 16)

More damage, more ability scores.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +10d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 26.7)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +10d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 37.1)

20
  • Stroke of Luck

Stroke of Luck doesn't apply to saving throws, so there's little reason to sit on it. Use it early, use it often.

One Attack: Dagger 1d4+5 with +10d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 26.7)

Two-Weapon Fighting: Dagger 1d4+5 and Dagger 1d4 with +10d6 Sneak Attack (DPR 37.1)